Regular readers of my Westminster column will know that one subject features fairly regularly – that subject is dementia. Ever since I was elected to Parliament in 2005, I have been involved in raising awareness of the issues surrounding dementia and I welcome any initiative which supports this aim. In my most recent piece on this subject, back at the beginning of May, I talked about Dementia Awareness Week, encouraging people to get involved in local activities across Warwickshire to talk about the issues and make their local community more dementia friendly. I congratulate all of those who hosted coffee mornings, tea parties and other events to raise awareness about this devastating illness.
As an MP I am regularly offered statistics demonstrating the scale of the challenge the disease presents, including predictions that the number of people in the UK with dementia will double in the next 40 years - there are currently 800,000 suffering from dementia in the UK, that one in three people over 65 will develop dementia, that one third of people with dementia live on their own in the community, of which over 60% admit to feeling lonely. I believe these are challenges we all need to recognise as it is highly likely we all know someone who is suffering with the condition.
I am therefore delighted that Parliament this week launched an organisation-wide effort, with the support of the Alzheimer’s Society, to become the first ever dementia-friendly parliament in the world. This ground breaking initiative will see all MPs, staff and the wider parliamentary community improve their understanding of the illness and take action to help those living with the condition. A dementia friendly Parliament demonstrates a commitment from people across the organisation to learn about the disease and adjust their working practices in support of those with the condition. All newly elected MPs will attend dementia awareness sessions, MPs and Peers will be provided with information and knowledge about dementia to help them assist constituents affected by the disease and Dementia Friends awareness sessions will be made available to all public-facing staff so they can support external visitors who are living with dementia. In addition, staff with caring responsibilities will be advised of help available to them through the Alzheimer’s Society.
I am pleased that my own staff share my interest in this subject and will be participating in this programme to become Dementia Friends. I would encourage anyone with an interest in this area to consider becoming a Dementia Friend too, you will learn a little bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia and share that understanding with people in your community. It makes such a difference to people suffering with dementia if those around them know what it is and how it might affect them. As I have said previously, if society can adapt better to the needs of sufferers, they in turn can live more comfortable and contented lives and if we can reduce the stigma surrounding dementia, more people will be encouraged to seek help earlier, when the medication we have is most effective.